The meat industry wants a coupled payment so that farmers continue to produce more and more cattle at a price less than the cost of production, ICSA suckler chair John Halley has said.
“It’s really that simple and it has always been the policy of the meat industry,” he said, adding that Meat Industry Ireland’s call for a coupled payment for sucklers is no surprise.
“Farmers need to be very wary of falling for this misguided proposal. If the meat industry wants sucklers, it should pay a fair price. A coupled payment is a cop-out by the meat industry to keep farmers losing money on production.
“Farm organisations that support the meat industry proposals need to look at basic economic principles. When we had decoupled payments, beef price was €2.50/kg.
“When you hear the meat industry looking for a coupled payment you should know it’s because they are seeing dollar signs.
“It’s clear that current problems will not be solved when farmers are desperately trying to get cattle into factories because supply is exceeding demand in markets that can afford a viable price,” he said.
Halley said that if the decision is made to close down other schemes to fund a new scheme, then the industry need to be very precise about devising a scheme that puts real money into the pockets of the farmer.
“The biggest loss to cattle and sheep farmers was the old REPS scheme where farmers typically got up to €10,000 for providing a tidy, biodiverse landscape which gave multiple benefits to rural economies," he said.
Unless something is done soon, there will be no suckler sector in a few years’ time
“In reality, the CAP budget needs to be increased in line with inflation. For too long, politicians have accepted an ongoing erosion of the value of CAP supports in real terms and then they wonder why farmers are angry. No other sector would accept payments which have not increased in line with inflation since the 1990s.
“It is now time for the Government to wake up to the threat faced by the suckler and beef sectors. We need a concerted effort to get more and more live exports and, of course, ICSA is demanding a Brexit rescue package from the EU to cover losses sustained over the past few months. Unless something is done soon, there will be no suckler sector in a few years’ time.”
Halley said that one decent REPS-type scheme is what’s required to put money back in suckler farmers’ pockets.
“Suckler farmers are fed up of the current array of schemes which are just not delivering. There are too many terms and conditions attached and they are of no real benefit financially to farmers at the end of the day.
“Farmers are sick and tired of talking shops; the time has come for action,” he said.
“Suckler farmers do not want a scheme where state bodies are telling them what kind of cow to breed.
"They do not want a scheme where they are being pushed towards half-bred cows from the dairy herd for replacements.
“But they also don’t want a scheme that simply allows meat factories to keep prices low in the knowledge that suckler farmers are locked into a scheme that guarantees supplies of loss-making cattle,” he said.
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